Wallabies Strive to Break Bledisloe Drought

Last time the Wallabies won the Bledisloe Cup John Howard was Prime Minister. Steve Bracks was in charge of Victoria and Bob Carr ran NSW, long before he started complaining about inedible food and the lack of pyjamas at the pointy end of aircraft.

The charts were dominated by former Neighbours sirens as Holly Valance, Delta Goodrem and Kylie had multiple entries in the Aria top 100. A full-time actress even got in on the act – Nicole Kidman’s Somethin’ Stupid made the list, albeit with a little help from Robbie Williams.

It has been twelve long years since Australia held the trans-Tasman bragging rights, but there is a real feeling this could be the year the Bledisloe is festooned with green and gold ribbons once again. The NSW Waratahs showed the way last month, winning the Super 16 final against a Crusaders team made up almost entirely of All Blacks. And Dan Carter, the New Zealand playmaker widely regarded to be the world’s best and most influential player, is missing through injury.

Appalling conditions on Saturday night led to a try-less stalemate in the first game of this year’s renewal. The 12-all draw makes the Wallabies job of wrestling back the Bledisloe Cup tougher, bearing in mind a drawn series would see New Zealand retain the cup as holders. Tougher still since the second game takes place at Eden Park in Auckland – New Zealand haven’t lost at the ground at all since 1994, and last did so to Australia way back in 1986.

All is not doom and gloom, however. The Waratahs triumphed by playing an attacking game at pace, and the ACT Brumbies qualified for the finals playing a similar brand of rugby. Torrential rain and a pernickety ref prevented much free-flowing rugby on Saturday night, so getting the draw without being able to implement ‘plan A’ was a creditable result.

The Wallabies forwards stood up to their vastly more experienced opponents in the scrum, and battled ferociously at the breakdown. Most encouragingly, they looked far more likely than their opponents to score tries on the night. The All Blacks held them at bay with often brilliant, occasionally cynical – twice they had payers sin-binned – defence. The only concern for every Australian fan is that they won’t have to look back on this as an opportunity lost after the final Bledisloe game in Brisbane in mid-October.

Australia did get one over their fiercest rivals on Saturday: New Zealand were chasing a world record 18th consecutive victory. This is the second time the Wallabies have prevented the All Blacks breaking the record. Coincidentally, or perhaps bizarrely, the All Blacks had won 17 matches in a row when they went to Brisbane two years and the result of that game was 18 points all. We should have all cleaned up at the TAB predicting the draw at the weekend.

Coach Ewen McKenzie has kept faith with the players who came so close to winning in Sydney for this Saturday’s make-or-break second instalment of the Bledisloe. Forecast dry weather for Auckland should allow the Wallabies to play the high tempo, running rugby that McKenzie has been aiming for since he took over the reins from Robbie Deans after the defeat against the British and Irish Lions. Kurtley Beale’s selection at fly half raised eyebrows before game one – he spent the Super 16 season at number 12 outside Bernard Foley – but he was picked for unpredictable, dynamic style of play.

New Zealand have not yet been able to finalise their squad for the game, with a couple of players being monitored after picking up knocks in Sydney. Ma’a Nonu has played a pivotal role in the All Blacks midfield for a long time, and flanker Jerome Kaino is renowned as the hard man in their pack: the loss of either, and at this stage it looks like both are only slim chances to get up by the weekend, would give further succour to the Wallabies. With their record at Eden Park over the best part of three decades and a dozen years without the Bledisloe, Australia will take every positive they can.


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    So close. Our forwards were fantastic. Looking forward to Saturday’s game. About time the Eden Park (and Bledisloe) hoodoo’s were broken. Go Wallabies.

  2. Peter Hulthen says

    It s hard to remember an All Black side without Ma’a Nonu. He has been an integral part of their back line and as vital as Dan Carter . The game plan is simple – the wallabies have to stay two converted tries ahead at all times as the All Blacks can put late tries on teams when they think they have won, even if they are in extra time. The All Blacks have become the benchmark by never giving up. if they do lose they always cop a caning in their local press. Being the number one religion in Aeo Te Aeroa the whole nation is focussed on their champions.

    As long as the referee polices the break downs the Wallabies have a good chance of turning the tables on the Kiwis.

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